Forestry premium payments of over 52 million for 2008


Mary Wallace T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has announced payment of over €52 million to more than 10,000 forest owners, most of whom are farmers.

This is the annual forestry premium payment under the forestry programme of the Department.

Announcing the forestry payments, Minister of State Wallace said that this money was hugely important to farmers and rural communities. She encouraged other farmers to avail of what is a most attractive forestry incentive package. This includes a guaranteed tax-free income for up to 20 years, an additional REPS payment for qualifying REPS farmers and the cash crop of the timber at thinning and final harvest.

"Premiums are a welcome and valuable annual source of income, the take from the sale of the timber crop should not be overlooked. The price for thinnings and timber has increased significantly and demand is growing all the time" - the Minister said. "Thinning your plantation is the way to maximise the return. In the short term, it is providing a cash crop for stake wood or wood-energy use. In the longer term it is reopening the canopy that will assist in optimising the return from your plantation at final harvest."

Minister Wallace underlined the importance of active management of the forest throughout its life and reminded forest-owners that the real return from forestry only begins when the premium ends.

The Minister also referred to the need to complete a management plan for 10 year-old plantations over a certain size. "The purpose of the management plan is to provide information to the owner and to my Department about a plantation. As well as setting out future management operations for the owner, the data collected is of use for inventory and planning purposes" - the Minister said.

A once-off contribution of €300 is being paid to forest-owners who have submitted a Management Plan and is included with the forestry premium payment.

The need for alternative and secure sources of energy to imported fossil fuels is becoming increasingly apparent. Wood biomass in its many forms is already playing a significant part as an alternative indigenous energy supply. Wood biomass will, undoubtedly, make an important contribution to Ireland achieving the challenging emission targets that have been set by the EU.

The Minister concluded - "Forestry is an important national resource as it is the basis of significant economic, environmental and social benefits. This Government is providing a comprehensive suite of supports to the forestry programme to ensure the country capitalises on the sector's potential."

The purpose of the annual forest premium is to compensate the plantation owner for loss in income earning potential, due to the long-term commitment of afforestation of the land. The premium is payable for 20 years in the case of farmers and 15 years for other forestry owners. The level of premium payable is higher in the case of farmers.

The annual premium rates vary from €240.94 to €599.26 per hectare, depending on the type of trees planted. Broadleaf species planted carry a higher premium payment.